THE amateur sleuths were in deep interval debate, but none of us fared much better than Inspector Pratt when it came to pinning the murders on one of the small crowd gathered in the drawing room of Bagshot House.
The Phoenix Players cast overcame an outbreak of Covid — social distancing would probably have been a welcome addition in this particular 1930s manor house — in rehearsals for Peter Gordon’s Agatha Christie whodunnit spoof Murdered To Death, and made a great job of entertaining a decent-sized Civic Theatre opening night audience.
There’s plenty of whodunnits to have a guess at as the cast gradually dwindles, with the hapless Pratt almost taking out his own constable with some wayward shooting on several occasions.
The first ten minutes or so are a bit quiet but the assemble quickly grow into this cleverly written play, nerves are cast aside and the mixture of laughs and intrigue is delivered with aplomb.
Lee Sanderson is brilliant as bungling Pratt, managing to deliver a constant stream of (deliberate) mispronunciations, wrong names and malapropisms.
Mark Kilburn-Stones has the audience in stitches as rude and not exactly deferential butler Bunting, while Elliott Cable excels as not-all-he-seems “French” artist Pierre Marceau.
Michael Flint is a perfect fit for the role of ladies’ man Colonel Charles Craddock and Gregg Muscroft is excellent as Pratt’s far more competent sidekick Constable Thompkins (or Thompson as his boss calls him).
Sue Martin brings interference and some concerning background as well meaning Hyacinth Bucket-type busybody Miss Jean Maple (or is that Miss Marbles?) and Elaine Veal and Yasmin Angove-Middleton set the story up flawlessly as the unfortunate Mildred and niece Dorothy,
Jill Connell provides the surprise package as Colonel Craddock’s long-suffering wife Margaret and Claire Martin’s high society woman about town Elizabeth Hartley-Trumpington is not just there to make up the numbers.
A shout out, too, for long-serving producer Julie Webb and stage manager David Martin who did fantastic jobs in bringing this excellent show together in what is the Brinsworth-based Phoenix’s 75th year.
Whoever decided upon the very appropriate Another One Bites The Dust as the musical accompaniment deserves plaudits, too.
But whodunnit? Well, not who I guessed for a start.
You’ll just have to go along to find out — Inspector Pratt did. Sort of. Eventually. It all comes down to a process of “illuminating” the suspects, you see.
Murdered to Death is at the Civic until Friday